Paul was adjudged Man of the Match for his 3-17. © AFP
“We are believing”, said Shreyas Iyer on Delhi Capitals’ title push at the presentation ceremony after his side took their points tally to double digits, only behind runaway leaders Chennai Super Kings. One could see why the belief is growing within that squad. It’s been seven years since the Delhi franchise reached the playoffs in the IPL. In this period, wholesale changes were made to the squad, wholesale changes were made to the coaching staff, incredible amounts of money was spent, but nothing changed. Fast forward to 2019, things are finally starting to happen for a side that has never tasted the title before.
After seeing their batting order crumble in successive games recently, Capitals had finally stitched a couple of wins, only to stare at another defeat on Sunday against Sunrisers Hyderabad. At times this felt as if it could turn into another night of frustration. Instead, it ended as the one that helped lay down a marker. For a change, Capitals were on the right side of a collapse. Two weeks after suffering the worst seven-wicket collapse in the history of this competition, they orchestrated the worst eight-wicket collapse in the IPL.
At the forefront was Keemo Paul, whose addition has certainly come as a shot in the arm for Capitals. Having not made a big impression in the three previous games that he played, Paul chose the right opportune moment on Sunday when he outfoxed some big names to signal his arrival on the world’s biggest T20 platform. This is his first ever IPL season. He was below in the pecking order and got to play a couple of games at the start only in the absence of Chris Morris. But having gotten back into the side in place of Sandeep Lamichhane, Paul has proved what an absolute asset he can be for this outfit.
Capitals already have the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris who can regularly bowl above 140 kph beating the batsmen for pace. They have a leggie in the XI in the form of either Amit Mishra or Rahul Tewatia and then there is also the left-arm spin of Axar Patel. And now Paul’s inclusion gives this side another dimension to explore as he showed on Sunday with his effective use of the slower delivery. Jonny Bairstow has been amongst the best batsmen in this year’s IPL. But he was the first one to get tricked into going hard at a delivery that was bowled full, wide and more importantly, without pace. Capitals had their first wicket but Sunrisers were easily in control following another fruitful opening partnership.
Ten balls later, it was Kane Williamson’s turn. Another slower delivery and the skipper was back in the pavilion in no time. But the game was still there for the taking for Sunrisers. New-man Ricky Bhui found the going tough but there was the ever-reliable David Warner at the other end. 56 runs were needed in the final five overs with eight wickets still in hand. Sunrisers had to outdo Capitals here at this point in time in order to lose to Capitals and ironically, that’s exactly what happened.
Paul came back into the attack, bowled another back of the hand slower delivery and this time, Bhui could only manage to get a thick leading edge to backward point. His figures read, 4-0-17-2 and quite astonishingly, he hadn’t conceded even a single boundary on the night. Considering he is still pretty much a newbie on the international scene, reading him off his hand could well take a fair bit of time for the rest of the league which could play into Capitals’ hands.
“It was the first time I’ve played against him, first time a lot of the other guys have faced him,” David Warner noted after the game. “He is quite skilful with what he does. When you play him a couple of more times you get used to certain things and I’m sure he will adapt as well to the players he comes up against. Everyone was talking about Rashid (Khan) when he first came on the scene, he was very hard to pick, look now, five-six seasons on and he is still very very effective and challenging to face. So, with Keemo it’s his first year here, he is bowling well, he has got those little cutters and odd yorker here and there, credit to him he bowled fantastic.”
Paul not only adds variety to this attack by being the only bowler to skilfully execute the back of the hand slower delivery, he is also capable of using the long handle to good effect to be utilised at No. 8 and is an absolute livewire on the field as he showcased on Sunday. The 21-year-old has grown in stature in the last 12 months or so and has ensured he will no longer be recognised only for the Mankading incident three years ago. Having made his senior debut for the West Indies in all three formats last year, Paul also managed to pick up a five-wicket haul in a T20I against Bangladesh days after getting picked by Capitals in the IPL auction.
He has not been picked for the Ireland series so that he can participate in the entire IPL but he remains on course to make this 12-month period even more memorable with a World Cup berth. Before all that, there is some unfinished business here in India with the Capitals looking to end their elusive search for that first title. And victories like the one on Sunday can only heighten that belief.